I’ve been in this shop once before, years ago, but never got up the nerve to ask to buy any of the tea from the imposing wall of canisters. It was at the beginning on my tea journey and aside from going in and ooh-ing and ahh-ing over the teapots on display (mainly the prices. Yikes), I hightailed it out of there relatively quickly since it was rather imposing with all those giant tins of tea on the wall. (I wonder what the turnaround for the tea inside is?)
Today when I went to Chinatown, I went in with the intent to buy tea. Alot of it was just generically labeled like Puerh and Jasmine, and the clerk spoke very little English. When I asked her if I was able to buy smaller amounts than the pound price listed, I got the equivalent of a confused head tilt where someone’s listening, but not comprehending what you’re saying. She was still very nice and I understand that their clientele is majorly Chinese, so the need for knowing English likely isn’t that necessary. But it still would’ve been nice to have some understanding. I had to repeat myself a few times and finally she understood when I made the ‘little’ gesture of putting your fingers close together before gesturing to the tea. Then as we were figuring it out an older Chinese lady came out from the back to get into the mix. Thankfully she spoke better English and was able to clarify that they sell in 2oz/4oz/6oz amounts and that it’s cash up to $10, but then she left and I was stuck with the original clerk. Oh well.
I ended up choosing the Keemun (2ozish for about $4ish) and the Yunnan (2ozish for about $3ish) that they had on the wall since I figured that would be the safest bet to try. I was considering an oolong, but they all had the generic names and nothing sounded familiar to me. I would’ve liked to smell/look at the tea first, especially the oolongs so I could figure out which was green and which not, but with the language barrier there I wasn’t comfortable trying to explain that.
I can say that I was pretty disappointed in the packaging that I got. I know, I’m probly spoiled with the nifty zip lock type pouches that most tea companies use. But the tea was put in rather thin white paper bags, then in an equally thin plastic bag that was then heat sealed, which seemed like a joke to me since that’s not going to do anything for the tea overall. I got the feeling that it was a ‘We have this machine, better make sure we use it’ sort of thing. I ended up rebagging both into zip locks then putting them into tins for the time being.
There was a gong fu setup in the back which was neat, but I’d bet was for special occasions/maybe specific appointments. And the displays of tins/opposite wall of herbals were interesting to look at. There was also a small counter area where I guess you could have a cup of tea made, but since I didn’t take more than a cursory glance at it, I couldn’t say more about it other than it was there.
Next time I’m in Chinatown, if the two teas I got turn out good enough that I’d want more, I’ll definitely stop and pick some more up, since the price was pretty good. Otherwise, loose tea is all I’d likely ever stop for since the teapots/teaware were far too pricey for me and I really have no interest in the ginseng/herbal part of the store.
So my parents and I go at least once a year to White Pines State Park, rent one of their cabins and stay for a few days. Last year when we went I didn’t find any tea places in the surrounding areas, but this year this cafe came up on my search. It was worth a shot so my Mom and I went there one day for lunch. It’s in a building that also has yoga classes, meditation classes, some martial arts stuff and other wellness classes which I don’t remember. The the cafe part only serves food until 2PM but tea bar itself is open until 5PM. Breakfast is 7AM – 11AM and lunch is 11AM – 2PM.
For the tea bar, which is separately run but all goes on the same bill if you order food, you can get hot tea by the cup or the pot along with iced tea, iced coffee and some other stuff that I can’t remember. They have a menu with all of the teas currently available and up on the counter there’s a few of the loose leaf teas (not what they measure your tea out of) in canisters so you can smell them. You can also buy tea by the ounce if you like, which was nice since my Mom and I couldn’t decide which of two teas to drink so we ended up buying an ounce of one and a brewed pot of the other. They don’t blend their own teas however, but order them from other companies.
Very peaceful, relaxing atmosphere with nice music in the background (live the first time by a lady on a piano, stereo the second time) and locally made artwork (for sale) hung on the walls. I really liked how all of the chairs were mismatched (though all of them were covered the same). It gave a cozy feel to the place.
The first time eating there my Mom and I got a pot of peach blossom white tea to have with our food (more on the food later). It was served in a tetsubin and we got little glass cups on cast iron saucers to drink from. No timer or anything to tell when it was ‘done’, so I let it sit until we both thought the taste was good. I wasn’t given anything to actually put the strainer on so I used the saucer from my cup. I guess they expected me to leave the strainer in the pot, but I didn’t want the tea to get bitter by just sitting in the pot. The strainer was packed full of leaves, almost to the point of overflowing out of the strainer, which was a surprise. We were allowed to sit and sip tea and make use of their free wi-fi (since the cabin doesn’t have any) as long as we wanted. A few times while we were sitting there we were asked if we wanted a hot water refill (which was free) or fresh leaves (which I’m guessing would not be free) on the teapot, but since we were already floating on tea, we didn’t take them up on either.
The second time we went there (because the food was fantastic) I got a pot of their Midnight Peony flowering black tea which was served in a glass pot and my Dad got a pot of their China Green, which was served in another tetsubin. The Midnight Peony looked like some strange sea anemone floating there. Lol! I got a second hot water refill on my pot, though my Dad didn’t.
Now the food because I have to rave about the food. The food is fantastic. So good in fact that we stopped there on the way home to have lunch again. Both times I went there I got the turkey basil pesto panini which was delicious. I got a full sandwich, but you can also get just a half sandwich and pair it with a cup of soup too. It comes with a pickle and the chef’s salad of the day (First time was Israeli Couscous w/ lemon vinaigrette, the second was regular couscous with regular oil vinaigrette). My Mom got a half turkey cranberry panini and a cup of summer corn and white bean soup the first time. The sandwich was something I didn’t think would work, but the bite I tried was very good. The soup was also delicious. The second time both she and my Dad got their breakfast panini of the day (which they serve all day as long as it lasts) which was a half bacon, cheddar, apple panini with some fruit served on the side. Another combo I didn’t think would work, but did apparently (though I didn’t try it myself). I missed out on the soup the second day since they weren’t listed on the board yet (Chicken Masala or Mushroom Potato), but my Mom got a bowl of the Mushroom Potato to go and apparently it’s amazing too.
Overall, I love this place and really hope that it’s still there when we visit next year. The staff was amazing, the food was excellent and the atmosphere was great too. I wish I either lived closer since I’d eat there all the time (and probly try to get a job there) or that there was such a place closer to me.
Highly recommend stopping by if you’re driving through the area.